How Important Is Phil Jones to Manchester United?
YOU can picture it, can't you?
David Moyes sat in Sir Alex Ferguson's living room with a glass of 1972 Chateauneuf du Pape in hand, being told he's the next manager of Manchester United.
In reality, Jones probably wasn't one the names that sprang to mind when Moyes mulled over his new squad as he left the Ferguson household.
But the 21-year-old from Preston is a manager's dream.
Last season alone, he played at centre-back, right-back and in midfield. He was asked to man-mark Marouane Fellaini and Cristiano Ronaldo. If there was a dirty job to do, Jones was asked to do it. And he did it well.
But there lies his problem.
He's a good centre-half, a good right-back and a good midfielder. But he's not yet a great anything.
He's been moved around so much that he hasn't had the chance to make any one position his own.
Even this season under Moyes, he started the Community Shield in the centre of defence but was shifted to right-back after Rafael had gone off with an injury.
Rafael hasn't played since and it's Jones who's been asked fill in. And when he recovers from the ankle injury he suffered against Liverpool, he'll fill in again, wherever he's needed.
Ask Jones where he wants to play, as he frequently is in interviews, and he'll tell you he wants be a centre-half.
But so far, most of his 69 appearances for United have been as a right-back. And it was only in the last of his eight England appearances that he was deployed as a centre-half for the first time.
At 21, Jones has time on his side if he wants to establish himself as a centre-back.
Fellaini's arrival will help in some respects because he's less likely to be drafted in as an emergency midfielder, as he was on occasion last season.
But in the meantime, Jones should revel in his role as United's utility man. Like a plumber or street sweeper, it's not a glamorous job, but it's a vital one all the same.
He's too good a footballer to be a jack of all trades all his career, and there will come a time when he's the star of the show.
For now though, Moyes should be delighted to be able to call on a multi-talented understudy.
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